Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

More Revelations ... and Obstacles

As the Sherry murder investigation gathered steam and generated more publicity, more people claiming knowledge started coming out of the woodwork. Several of those questioned said they were offered the job of killing an unnamed judge, but they declined. Their stories may have been questionable, since they were coming from imprisoned men hoping to cut deals that might reduce their sentences, but many of the details they furnished were right on the money. Investigators running the leads these people furnished found out most of them checked out with documented facts and records.

And some of these leads pointed toward Mike Gillich's possible role in the Sherry murders.

But still, caution was the watchword, even as pieces of the puzzle fell ever more neatly into place. An air-tight case would have to be built — one strong enough to convince a grand jury to hand down an indictment — and it would not be easy getting an indictment against a sitting mayor, especially relying on testimony from convicted felons trying to cut deals with the state. As First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent McDaniel told Lynne Sposito, "We only get one shot at it."

As if to lend credence to the U.S. Attorney Office's hesitation to proceed, a recent notable failure was working against them. Toward the end of his term in office, Blessey had been indicted on a number of charges involving corruption and misappropriation of government funds, but he was acquitted in a jury trial right around the time that the Sherry murder investigation was gathering momentum. The U.S. Attorney's office, taking the heat for its failure to make a strong enough case against Blessey, was not about to take on another Biloxi mayor without being confident it would win.

The case dragged on for another two years, through seemingly endless interrogations of possible witnesses and seemingly deliberate foot-dragging by an overcautious U.S. Attorney. The more time went on, the more memories faded and the more stories originally given began to take on new twists, turns and interpretations.

Witnesses were now altering their stories and in so doing undermined their credibility — those who had had any to begin with. Some of these alterations contradicted their earlier statements, furthering damaging any credibility they might have had. Investigators didn't have an easy time of it, trying to sift the truth from all these lies and inconsistencies, especially since many of these inconsistencies were coming from key people who investigators hoped would roll over for them, most notably Fabian, Ransom, Hallal, and LaRa Sharpe.

Hallal's story, especially, had taken on so many new and creative variations, no one knew which one — if any — could be believed. At first he told Cook and Bell he had only met with Gillich to discuss the hit on the unnamed judge, then he later maintained that Ransom had also been present at the meeting. There were also contradictions about his role as a runner of the scam money and the frequency of his dealings with Gillich.

All the while Lynne had been continuing to get death threats and, in those days before caller ID, she had no way of knowing from where the calls were coming. But the grand jury had been impaneled and witnesses were being subpoenaed to appear before it. It wouldn't be much longer before they would decide whether or not the case had enough merit to go forward, whether or not they could hand down any indictments before their mandate expired—the clock was ticking. The U.S. Attorney had only until the end of May 1991 to ask the grand jury for an indictment and the deadline was fast approaching. Moreover, the five-year statute of limitations on many of the scam charges was also looming. If no indictment was made there, the scam would be much less useful as evidence in any later trial, thus making a conviction in the Sherry murder case less likely. Action had to be taken soon.

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